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HP Go Global Award Winners

The winners of the HP Go Global Awards have been announced; we get to know them a bit better.

Startup businesses regularly hit the headlines these days, perhaps because we all love a story of someone making it big out of humble beginnings and their own hard work. But even the most disruptive startups don't create absolutely every part of their business from scratch. A successful startup will still need reliable business technology support to ensure a solid basis for growth. So it's perhaps less of a surprise than you might initially assume that HP has hosted a number of startup-focused awards. The HP Go Global Awards is one such event aimed to celebrate startups that have managed to break into the challenging export market and those that are about to do so, as well as provide assistance for companies that have global potential. 

This year's awards were held at the fittingly Shoreditch-serving Beagle restaurant and cafe next to Hoxton station. The event began with HP's Chief of Staff Susan Bowen reminding the audience that HP itself started in a humble garage in Palo Alto, and hadn't forgotten its roots. HP's rise from two people in that garage to a company with over 300,000 employees is an example of just how far a startup can go. With 90 per cent of the world's data created in the last two years (and that was in 2013), there are even more opportunities for new tech-related businesses to skyrocket today than in William Redington Hewlett and David Packard's era. The growth of Snapchat from $4 million company with 20 employees to $15 billion company with 300 employees is just one example amongst a pantheon of disruptive success that includes AirBnB and Uber among many others. This also provides HP with many opportunities to support these disruptive businesses.

Further speakers included Enterprise Nation Founder Emma Jones, and Sam Massey, Deputy Director in the Information Economy Team at the government's UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) organisation. Massey provided some compelling figures, such as the 11 per cent greater chance that a company has of surviving if it exports. The UKTI provides a number of services to help companies achieve this goal, including ExportSavvy online training and the Passport to Export mentoring scheme. The UK allegedly has 12 per cent of the e-Exporting market, with UK online retail exports expected to reach 60 billion by 2018, and UKTI provides a programme of advisers for this too.

However, the main keynote for the event was from Guy Jeremiah, Managing Director of a now well established startup, Ohyo. With a strong presence in Marks and Spencer for its collapsible water bottle, the company has found considerable success performing the seeming paradoxical feat of exporting goods manufactured in the UK to China. Ohyo is just about to release a bag that takes inspiration from its water bottle by being foldable into a small size, but able to unfold into a variety of bag capacity options, so you always have the right-sized bag with you. Jeremiah recounted difficulties in the US market, but successes in Switzerland and Australia. He proved a strong evangelist of the export business, arguing in favour of the value of entering fresh markets, because a company's products will receive greater retail attention when newly arrived. He also reinforced the idea that export markets spread risk, making a company more resilient. He was full of practical tips for the startups in attendance at the event.

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Unlike some awards events, where the meal is more of a celebration, the Go Global Awards was very much organised as a networking opportunity. The tables were arranged with regional export themes, including a China table, a US table, and one for the European Union. Delegates were allotted a country on their name badge, and were then able to discuss the export opportunities to these regions with each other and strategically placed experts. Only after much discussion and networking was the true main course of the day revealed the winners of the HP Go Global Awards 2015.

There were six finalists for the two awards. The Breakthrough Exporter of the Year award is for a company that has managed to establish itself in the global market, whilst the Next Breakthrough Exporter of the Year is for a company that looks set to make it big on the international stage soon. Sefaira and Kit for Kids were up for the first award, whilst Just Park, Coniq, Turtle Tots and Eyetease were in the running for the second.

The Breakthrough Exporter of the Year award went to Kit for Kids, a company begun in 1993 at the back of a garage like so many startups, including HP itself. Kit for Kids now employs 30 staff in the UK and Middle East, plus 100 more in its European Production Centre in Romania. Founding Director Jan van der Velde drew on his background as a design engineer at GEC Avionics and Chartered Accountant with Price Waterhouse to provide both product conceptualisation and business realisation. Kit for Kids manufactures products to improve the lives of children worldwide, and started with a play area van der Velde created for his own daughter. There are now numerous items in the company's range, all focused on child education, safety and development.

The winner of the Next Breakthrough Exporter of the Year award is likely to be an increasingly visible presence if you live or work in London, and eventually around the world. Eyetease's main product is a system that takes the cab-top advertising famous on New York taxis, and brings it into the digital age. The company has also developed an in-cab Internet provision (CabWifi), but its main aim is to provide a screen on top of taxis that can host dynamic digital advertising called iTaxitop. After vanquishing the regulations so that iTaxitop can be provided to iconic London black cabs, the company is now targeting the US. Revenue is already exceeding $4 million a year, and Eyetease plans to double this within a year after expansion to America.

But even the finalists that didn't win either of the two accolades were given a hugely valuable prize in the form of a trade mission to perhaps the most important emerging market in the world, China. In tandem with UKTI, all six companies will be flying out to this billion-strong developing nation, to see how they could reap the benefits of export. Thanks to the HP's Go Global Awards, these companies can potentially look forward to a highly lucrative international future.

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